argumentative essay unit middle school

Bell Ringers

Teaching argumentative writing in middle school ela: part one.

If you teach middle school, you know that teenagers have a lot of opinions! Luckily, you can use that to your advantage when teaching students how to write an argumentative essay. The key is to help students learn to craft well-written arguments with evidence (not just arguing for the sake of it, which middle schoolers can be prone to). 

While learning to craft argumentative essays will help students in school, being able to craft and defend an argument is also an important skill for the real world. Writing an argumentative essay or having a debate requires critical thinking skills and the ability to take a stance and back it up. 

argumentative essay unit middle school

What is Argumentative Writing?

In order for students to understand how to write an argumentative essay, they need to understand what argumentative writing is.

Argumentative essays usually require that students do some investigation or research on a topic and then choose a clear stance. When writing, students will spend the body of the essay explaining points and providing evidence that supports their stance. A counterargument is also typically given as a way to counteract how “nay-sayers” would disagree with the writer. At the end of the essay, students will restate their argument and summarize their evidence.

How to Introduce Argumentative Writing: The Debate

Now that we know what to expect from argumentative writing, we can get into how to write an argumentative essay. You’ll want to start by introducing argumentative writing, which I liked to do through debates. Just like in an essay, to successfully debate a topic, students must do some investigation, choose a stance, and then argue their point in a meaningful way. Holding a class debate is a great place to start when introducing argumentative writing. Debating a topic verbally can actually be used as a brainstorming session before students ever even put pen to paper. For students new to argumentative writing, this takes some of the pressure off of jumping right into the writing process and helps them generate ideas.

There are a few ways you can use debates. For instance, you can choose a topic you’d like students to debate or let them choose a topic they’re already passionate about. 

I liked to give students a few minutes to think through the topic and prep on their own, and then I partner them up. They can either debate the topic with their partner, or they can work together with their partner to debate another pair. 

Depending on your class size, you could also split the class in half and make it a whole group debate. As long as students are researching or investigating in some way, choosing a stance, and finding reasons to back up their position, there is no wrong way to hold a debate in your class – and you can try out a few different formats to see what works best.

After the debates, it’s a great idea to debrief. This is a good time to bring in some key vocabulary and reinforce how to write an argumentative essay. For example, you can look over some of the evidence presented and ask students to rate the “strength” of the argument. You can also brainstorm a counterargument together.

argumentative essay unit middle school

How to Introduce Argumentative Writing: The Flash Draft

After students debate, they move on to the flash draft. A flash draft is essentially a giant brain dump. Students do not have to worry about spelling, grammar, organization, or even structure. They will simply be taking their thoughts from the debate and getting them down on paper. 

One benefit to the flash draft is it removes the barrier of intimidation for a lot of students. For many kids, the actual work of starting to write can be daunting. A flash draft removes that intimidation of perfection and just requires something to be on the page. Again, the flash draft portion can be completely tailored to best suit your students and classroom. You can set a timer for a specific amount of time, you can provide students with an outline or guiding questions, or you can give them sentence stems to start. 

If you have access to technology in your classroom, you can even let students verbalize their flash draft and use transcription technology to get it on paper. 

Expanding Knowledge of Argumentative Writing

By now, you might be wondering when you’ll actually dive deeper into how to write an argumentative essay. That will start with a mini-lesson. These mini-lessons should cover the key parts of argumentative essays, like how to take a stance, ways to support your position, how to transition between thoughts, and even how to craft a counterargument. 

You could have a mini-lesson before each flash draft to focus on a particular skill, or you can hold the mini-lesson after the flash draft and let students focus on that skill during revisions. During mini-lessons, I highly suggest using mentor texts, guided examples, or other reference materials. When it comes to writing, many students need to see the process in action, so modeling and having a place for them to reference will be super key to their success.

argumentative essay unit middle school

Argumentative Writing Unit for Middle School 

Want support putting together your argumentative essay unit? My done-for-you Argumentative Writing Unit scaffolds how to write an argumentative essay for you and your students.

The unit includes 23 full lesson plans, slide presentations, notebook pages for students, teacher keys and examples, student references pages, and more for a well-rounded unit.

Plus, this unit goes through the exact process I talked about in the blog, using debate, flash drafts, and mini-lessons to scaffold students through the writing process.

argumentative essay unit middle school

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102 Excellent Argumentative Essay Topics For Middle School

November 10, 2023 //  by  Brittany Ray

Middle schoolers are always ready for a feisty debate and to argue their points! This list of excellent argumentative essay topics for middle school is sure to give your students the practice they need in getting their arguments down on paper, in a persuasive way. With a variety of topics ranging from whether or not to outlaw animal testing to debating a 3-day weekend, this curated collection will give your kiddos lots of fun choices to explore! Take a look and see which topics are sure to spark some interest in your classroom!

1. Should cell phones be allowed at school?


2. Should exotic animals be kept in captivity?


3. Should there be harsher punishments for bullying?


4. Explain why or why not: Should students have homework on weekends?


5. Do you feel the government should dictate what you get for school lunch?


6. Should cigarettes be illegal?


7. Should gym class (physical education) be a requirement?


8. Should the drinking age be lowered to 18?


9. Do you think that the government should do more to fight against human trafficking?


10. Do you think there should be automatic screen time limits for children?


11. Explain whether or not animal testing should be outlawed.


12. Should the death penalty exist?


13. Do you feel undocumented immigrants should be granted all the same rights as naturalized citizens?


14. Explain your stance as to whether schools should or should not require students to wear uniforms.


15. Should violent video games be banned in the United States?


16. Is milk beneficial to a person’s health?


17. Are hot dogs bad for you?


18. Should a college degree earned through online education have the same worth as a degree earned at a brick-and-mortar university?   


19. Explain whether or not the Electoral College should be eliminated.


20. Should an individual be able to keep wild animals as pets if they have the means to care for them?


21. Should the school day be extended in exchange for a long weekend?


22. Should the government have more say in what is or is not “fake news”?


23. Do you feel art courses should be a required part of earning a college degree?


24. Do you agree or disagree that parents should be held responsible for childhood obesity?


25. Explain your stance on whether wind farms are a good or bad idea.


26. Should college admission criteria be less stringent?


27. Do you believe brick-and-mortar schools are still necessary for today’s post-pandemic society?


28. Is the student-per-class limit too high?


29. Should college athletes be paid?


30. Should a felon have the right to vote?


31. Should children be given an allowance?


32. Does the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) do a good job of regulating the production of food? 


33. What do you believe is the appropriate age to begin using social media (i.e., Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.)?


34. Should high school students be required to take a civics exam before graduation?


35. Should elite athletes be allowed to use performance-enhancing drugs?


36. Do you believe that a college education is necessary for everyone?


37. Have Native American communities been given proper reparations for the United States’ long history of seizing land?


38. Is scientific research on cloning DNA ethical? 

39. should the government have more strict gun control policies.


40. At what age should children begin doing chores?


41. The moral stain of the slavery of African American people in early American History is undoubtedly present. Do you feel the government promotes hate or love with the way it currently speaks about racism?


42. Should employers have the right to require a Covid-19 vaccine?


43. Do you think electronic voting machines make the election procedure fair or unfair?


44. Should all political offices have term limits? 


45. Is climate change something we can truly make a difference with? 


46. Should the voting age be lowered?


47. If protecting the environment is of utmost importance, should bottled water be banned?


48. Should the FDA allow GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in our food?


49. Is daylight saving something the U.S. should keep, or should it be abolished?


50. Should excellent grades guarantee a scholarship?


51. With the separation of church and state, should churches be exempt from paying taxes?


52. Should school security be improved? 


53. Should the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour?


54. Has artificial intelligence gone too far?


55. Should public education at the college level be tuition-free?


56. Should the government have the ability to ban certain books in the classroom? 


57. Should school cafeterias serve exclusively vegetarian meals to promote health?

argumentative essay unit middle school

58. Should schools have mandatory classes on financial literacy?

argumentative essay unit middle school

59. Do you believe that the media negatively impacts body image among teens?

argumentative essay unit middle school

60. Should students be required to learn a second language starting in middle school?

argumentative essay unit middle school

61. Should schools have mandatory mental health classes and counseling sessions?

argumentative essay unit middle school

62. Do curfews for teenagers prevent them from getting in trouble or infringe on personal freedom?

argumentative essay unit middle school

63. Should students be allowed to grade their teachers?

argumentative essay unit middle school

64. Should junk food advertisements be banned during children’s TV shows?

argumentative essay unit middle school

65. Do you believe standardized tests accurately measure a student’s intelligence and capabilities?

argumentative essay unit middle school

66. Should students be allowed to use smartwatches during examinations?

argumentative essay unit middle school

67. Do social media platforms need stricter age verification processes?

argumentative essay unit middle school

68. Should parents have access to their children’s social media accounts for monitoring purposes?

argumentative essay unit middle school

69. Do you believe that school field trips are beneficial or merely recreational?

argumentative essay unit middle school

70. Should schools introduce mandatory community service as part of the curriculum?

argumentative essay unit middle school

71. Should schools allow students to bring their pets to school?

argumentative essay unit middle school

72. Do violent cartoons and animations impact a child’s behavior negatively?

argumentative essay unit middle school

73. Should schools be allowed to monitor students’ online activities?

argumentative essay unit middle school

74. Should education about global warming and environmental conservation be a mandatory part of the curriculum?

argumentative essay unit middle school

75. Do video games have educational potential or are they merely distractions?

argumentative essay unit middle school

76. Should parents limit the time their children spend on video games?

argumentative essay unit middle school

77. Do school dress codes infringe on personal expression?

argumentative essay unit middle school

78. Should middle school students be allowed to bring and use laptops in class?

argumentative essay unit middle school

79. Should schools ban single-use plastics?

argumentative essay unit middle school

80. Is cursive writing still a necessary skill in the digital age?

argumentative essay unit middle school

81. Do “participation trophies” diminish the value of real achievement?

argumentative essay unit middle school

82. Should students be taught about controversial historical figures objectively or with a critical lens?

argumentative essay unit middle school

83. Should students have a more significant say in the creation of school rules and policies?

argumentative essay unit middle school

84. Do schools focus too much on college preparation at the expense of life skills?

argumentative essay unit middle school

85. Should students be allowed to take “mental health days” off from school?

argumentative essay unit middle school

86. Are parent-teacher conferences still effective or have they become outdated?

argumentative essay unit middle school

87. Should middle schools have later start times to accommodate adolescent sleep patterns?

argumentative essay unit middle school

88. Should schools have strict policies against cyberbullying?

argumentative essay unit middle school

89. Should parents be held more accountable for their children’s misbehavior at school?

argumentative essay unit middle school

90. Should school libraries invest in more digital resources or in physical books?

argumentative essay unit middle school

91. Is homeschooling a better option than traditional schooling for some students?

argumentative essay unit middle school

92. Should schools introduce more practical skills courses like basic cooking, sewing, or home repair?

argumentative essay unit middle school

93. Do children currently have too much screen time, and is it harmful?

argumentative essay unit middle school

94. Should schools emphasize more on teaching critical thinking skills rather than just memorizing things?

argumentative essay unit middle school

95. Should there be more emphasis on vocational training in middle school?

argumentative essay unit middle school

96. Should students be taught the dangers of misinformation and “fake news” as part of their curriculum?

argumentative essay unit middle school

97. Do parents put too much pressure on their children to excel academically?

argumentative essay unit middle school

98. Should schools have mindfulness and meditation sessions as part of the daily routine?

argumentative essay unit middle school

99. Should there be a limit to the amount of homework a school can assign to students?

argumentative essay unit middle school

100. Is the traditional grading system effective, or does it need an overhaul?

argumentative essay unit middle school

101. Should schools offer more extracurricular activities to cater to diverse interests?

argumentative essay unit middle school

102. Do schools place too much emphasis on sports and athletes at the expense of academic pursuits?

argumentative essay unit middle school

A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Argumentative Writing

February 7, 2016

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For seven years, I was a writing teacher.  Yes, I was certified to teach the full spectrum of English language arts—literature, grammar and usage, speech, drama, and so on—but my absolute favorite, the thing I loved doing the most, was teaching students how to write.

Most of the material on this site is directed at all teachers. I look for and put together resources that would appeal to any teacher who teaches any subject. That practice will continue for as long as I keep this up. But over the next year or so, I plan to also share more of what I know about teaching students to write. Although I know many of the people who visit here are not strictly English language arts teachers, my hope is that these posts will provide tons of value to those who are, and to those who teach all subjects, including writing.

So let’s begin with argumentative writing, or persuasive writing, as many of us used to call it. This overview will be most helpful to those who are new to teaching writing, or teachers who have not gotten good results with the approach you have taken up to now. I don’t claim to have the definitive answer on how to do this, but the method I share here worked pretty well for me, and it might do the same for you. If you are an experienced English language arts teacher, you probably already have a system for teaching this skill that you like. Then again, I’m always interested in how other people do the things I can already do; maybe you’re curious like that, too.

Before I start, I should note that what I describe in this post is a fairly formulaic style of essay writing. It’s not exactly the 5-paragraph essay, but it definitely builds on that model. I strongly believe students should be shown how to move past those kinds of structures into a style of writing that’s more natural and fitting to the task and audience, but I also think they should start with something that’s pretty clearly organized.

So here’s how I teach argumentative essay writing.

Step 1: Watch How It’s Done

One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves. Ideally, this writing would come from real publications and not be fabricated by me in order to embody the form I’m looking for. Although most experts on writing instruction employ some kind of mentor text study, the person I learned it from best was Katie Wood Ray in her book Study Driven (links to the book: | Amazon ).

Since I want the writing to be high quality and the subject matter to be high interest, I might choose pieces like Jessica Lahey’s Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need it Most  and David Bulley’s School Suspensions Don’t Work .

I would have students read these texts, compare them, and find places where the authors used evidence to back up their assertions. I would ask students which author they feel did the best job of influencing the reader, and what suggestions they would make to improve the writing. I would also ask them to notice things like stories, facts and statistics, and other things the authors use to develop their ideas. Later, as students work on their own pieces, I would likely return to these pieces to show students how to execute certain writing moves.

Step 2: Informal Argument, Freestyle

Although many students might need more practice in writing an effective argument, many of them are excellent at arguing in person. To help them make this connection, I would have them do some informal debate on easy, high-interest topics. An activity like This or That (one of the classroom icebreakers I talked about last year) would be perfect here: I read a statement like “Women have the same opportunities in life as men.” Students who agree with the statement move to one side of the room, and those who disagree move to the other side. Then they take turns explaining why they are standing in that position. This ultimately looks a little bit like a debate, as students from either side tend to defend their position to those on the other side.

Every class of students I have ever had, from middle school to college, has loved loved LOVED this activity. It’s so simple, it gets them out of their seats, and for a unit on argument, it’s an easy way to get them thinking about how the art of argument is something they practice all the time.

Step 3: Informal Argument, Not so Freestyle

Once students have argued without the support of any kind of research or text, I would set up a second debate; this time with more structure and more time to research ahead of time. I would pose a different question, supply students with a few articles that would provide ammunition for either side, then give them time to read the articles and find the evidence they need.

Next, we’d have a Philosophical Chairs debate (learn about this in my  discussion strategies post), which is very similar to “This or That,” except students use textual evidence to back up their points, and there are a few more rules. Here they are still doing verbal argument, but the experience should make them more likely to appreciate the value of evidence when trying to persuade.

Before leaving this step, I would have students transfer their thoughts from the discussion they just had into something that looks like the opening paragraph of a written argument: A statement of their point of view, plus three reasons to support that point of view. This lays the groundwork for what’s to come.

Step 4: Introduction of the Performance Assessment

Next I would show students their major assignment, the performance assessment that they will work on for the next few weeks. What does this look like? It’s generally a written prompt that describes the task, plus the rubric I will use to score their final product.

Anytime I give students a major writing assignment, I let them see these documents very early on. In my experience, I’ve found that students appreciate having a clear picture of what’s expected of them when beginning a writing assignment. At this time, I also show them a model of a piece of writing that meets the requirements of the assignment. Unlike the mentor texts we read on day 1, this sample would be something teacher-created (or an excellent student model from a previous year) to fit the parameters of the assignment.

Step 5: Building the Base

Before letting students loose to start working on their essays, I make sure they have a solid plan for writing. I would devote at least one more class period to having students consider their topic for the essay, drafting a thesis statement, and planning the main points of their essay in a graphic organizer.

I would also begin writing my own essay on a different topic. This has been my number one strategy for teaching students how to become better writers. Using a document camera or overhead projector, I start from scratch, thinking out loud and scribbling down my thoughts as they come. When students see how messy the process can be, it becomes less intimidating for them. They begin to understand how to take the thoughts that are stirring around in your head and turn them into something that makes sense in writing.

For some students, this early stage might take a few more days, and that’s fine: I would rather spend more time getting it right at the pre-writing stage than have a student go off willy-nilly, draft a full essay, then realize they need to start over. Meanwhile, students who have their plans in order will be allowed to move on to the next step.

Step 6: Writer’s Workshop

The next seven to ten days would be spent in writer’s workshop, where I would start class with a mini-lesson about a particular aspect of craft. I would show them how to choose credible, relevant evidence, how to skillfully weave evidence into an argument, how to consider the needs of an audience, and how to correctly cite sources. Once each mini-lesson was done, I would then give students the rest of the period to work independently on their writing. During this time, I would move around the room, helping students solve problems and offering feedback on whatever part of the piece they are working on. I would encourage students to share their work with peers and give feedback at all stages of the writing process.

If I wanted to make the unit even more student-centered, I would provide the mini-lessons in written or video format and let students work through them at their own pace, without me teaching them. (To learn more about this approach, read this post on self-paced learning ).

As students begin to complete their essays, the mini-lessons would focus more on matters of style and usage. I almost never bother talking about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or usage until students have a draft that’s pretty close to done. Only then do we start fixing the smaller mistakes.

Step 7: Final Assessment

Finally, the finished essays are handed in for a grade. At this point, I’m pretty familiar with each student’s writing and have given them verbal (and sometimes written) feedback throughout the unit; that’s why I make the writer’s workshop phase last so long. I don’t really want students handing in work until they are pretty sure they’ve met the requirements to the best of their ability. I also don’t necessarily see “final copies” as final; if a student hands in an essay that’s still really lacking in some key areas, I will arrange to have that student revise it and resubmit for a higher grade.

So that’s it. If you haven’t had a lot of success teaching students to write persuasively, and if the approach outlined here is different from what you’ve been doing, give it a try. And let’s keep talking: Use the comments section below to share your techniques or ask questions about the most effective ways to teach argumentative writing.

Want this unit ready-made?

If you’re a writing teacher in grades 7-12 and you’d like a classroom-ready unit like the one described above, including mini-lessons, sample essays, and a library of high-interest online articles to use for gathering evidence, take a look at my Argumentative Writing unit. Just click on the image below and you’ll be taken to a page where you can read more and see a detailed preview of what’s included.

What to Read Next

argumentative essay unit middle school

Categories: Instruction , Podcast

Tags: English language arts , Grades 6-8 , Grades 9-12 , teaching strategies


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This is useful information. In teaching persuasive speaking/writing I have found Monroe’s Motivated sequence very useful and productive. It is a classic model that immediately gives a solid structure for students.

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Thanks for the recommendation, Bill. I will have to look into that! Here’s a link to more information on Monroe’s Motivated sequence, for anyone who wants to learn more:

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What other sites do you recommend for teacher use on providing effective organizational structure in argumentative writing? As a K-12 Curriculum Director, I find that when teachers connect with and understand the organizational structure, they are more effective in their teaching/delivery.

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Hey Jessica, in addition to the steps outlined here, you might want to check out Jenn’s post on graphic organizers . Graphic organizers are a great tool that you can use in any phase of a lesson. Using them as a prewrite can help students visualize the argument and organize their thoughts. There’s a link in that post to the Graphic Organizer Multi-Pack that Jenn has for sale on her Teachers Pay Teachers site, which includes two versions of a graphic organizer you can use specifically for argument organization. Otherwise, if there’s something else you had in mind, let us know and we can help you out. Thanks!

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Dear Jennifer Gonzalez,

You are generous with your gift of lighting the path… I hardly ever write (never before) , but I must today… THANK YOU… THANK YOU….THANK YOU… mostly for reading your great teachings… So your valuable teachings will even be easy to benefit all the smart people facing challenge of having to deal with adhd…

I am not a teacher… but forever a student…someone who studied English as 2nd language, with a science degree & adhd…

You truly are making a difference in our World…

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Thanks so much, Rita! I know Jenn will appreciate this — I’ll be sure to share with her!

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Love it! Its simple and very fruitful . I can feel how dedicated you are! Thanks alot Jen

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Great examples of resources that students would find interesting. I enjoyed reading your article. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks!

You’re welcome, Sheryl!

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Students need to be writing all the time about a broad range of topics, but I love the focus here on argumentative writing because if you choose the model writing texts correctly, you can really get the kids engaged in the process and in how they can use this writing in real-world situations!

I agree, Laura. I think an occasional tight focus on one genre can help them grow leaps and bounds in the skills specific to that type of writing. Later, in less structured situations, they can then call on those skills when that kind of thinking is required.

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This is really helpful! I used it today and put the recess article in a Google Doc and had the kids identify anecdotal, statistic, and ‘other’ types of evidence by highlighting them in three different colors. It worked well! Tomorrow we’ll discuss which of the different types of evidence are most convincing and why.

Love that, Shanna! Thanks for sharing that extra layer.

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Greetings Ms. Gonzales. I was wondering if you had any ideas to help students develop the cons/against side of their argument within their writing? Please advise. Thanks.

Hi Michael,

Considering audience and counterarguments are an important part of the argumentative writing process. In the Argumentative Writing unit Jenn includes specific mini-lessons that teach kids how, when and where to include opposing views in their writing. In the meantime, here’s a video that might also be helpful.

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Hi, Thank you very much for sharing your ideas. I want to share also the ideas in the article ‘Already Experts: Showing Students How Much They Know about Writing and Reading Arguments’ by Angela Petit and Edna Soto…they explain a really nice activity to introduce argumentative writing. I have applied it many times and my students not only love it but also display a very clear pattern as the results in the activity are quite similar every time. I hope you like it.

Lorena Perez

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I’d like to thank you you for this excellence resource. It’s a wonderful addition to the informative content that Jennifer has shared.

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What do you use for a prize?

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I looked at the unit, and it looks and sounds great. The description says there are 4 topics. Can you tell me the topics before I purchase? We start argument in 5th grade, and I want to make sure the topics are different from those they’ve done the last 5 years before purchasing. Thanks!

Hi Carrie! If you go to the product page on TPT and open up the preview, you’ll see the four topics on the 4th page in more detail, but here they are: Social Networking in School (should social media sites be blocked in school?), Cell Phones in Class, Junk Food in School, and Single-Sex Education (i.e., genders separated). Does that help?

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I teach 6th grade English in a single gendered (all-girls) class. We just finished an argument piece but I will definitely cycle back your ideas when we revisit argumentation. Thanks for the fabulous resources!

Glad to hear it, Madelyn!

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I’m not a writing teacher and honestly haven’t been taught on how to teach writing. I’m a history teacher. I read this and found it helpful but have questions. First I noticed that amount of time dedicated to the task in terms of days. My questions are how long is a class period? I have my students for about 45 minutes. I also saw you mentioned in the part about self-paced learning that mini-lessons could be written or video format. I love these ideas. Any thoughts on how to do this with almost no technology in the room and low readers to non-readers? I’m trying to figure out how to balance teaching a content class while also teaching the common core skills. Thank you for any consideration to my questions.

Hey Jones, To me, a class period is anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour; definitely varies from school to school. As for the question about doing self-paced with very little tech? I think binders with written mini-lessons could work well, as well as a single computer station or tablet hooked up to a class set of videos. Obviously you’d need to be more diligent about rotating students in and out of these stations, but it’s an option at least. You might also give students access to the videos through computers in other locations at school (like the library) and give them passes to watch. The thing about self-paced learning, as you may have seen in the self-paced post , is that if students need extra teacher support (as you might find with low readers or non-readers), they would spend more one-on-one time with the teacher, while the higher-level students would be permitted to move more quickly on their own. Does that help?

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My primary goal for next semester is to increase academic discussion and make connections from discussion to writing, so I love how you launch this unit with lessons like Philosophical Chairs. I am curious, however, what is the benefit of the informal argument before the not-so-informal argument? My students often struggle to listen to one another, so I’m wondering if I should start with the more formal, structured version. Or, am I overthinking the management? Thanks so much for input.

Yikes! So sorry your question slipped through, and we’re just now getting to this, Sarah. The main advantage of having kids first engage in informal debate is that it helps them get into an argumentative mindset and begin to appreciate the value of using research to support their claims. If you’ve purchased the unit, you can read more about this in the Overview.

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My 6th graders are progressing through their argumentative essay. I’m providing mini lessons along the way that target where most students are in their essay. Your suggestions will be used. I’ve chosen to keep most writing in class and was happy to read that you scheduled a lot of class time for the writing. Students need to feel comfortable knowing that writing is a craft and needs to evolve over time. I think more will get done in class and it is especially important for the struggling writers to have peers and the teacher around while they write. Something that I had students do that they liked was to have them sit in like-topic groups to create a shared document where they curated information that MIGHT be helpful along the way. By the end of the essay, all will use a fantastic add-on called GradeProof which helps to eliminate most of the basic and silly errors that 6th graders make.

Debbi! I LOVE the idea of a shared, curated collection of resources! That is absolutely fantastic! Are you using a Google Doc for this? Other curation tools you might consider are Padlet and Elink .

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thanks v much for all this information

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Love this! What do you take as grades in the meantime? Throughout this 2 week stretch?

Ideally, you wouldn’t need to take grades at all, waiting until the final paper is done to give one grade. If your school requires more frequent grades, you could assign small point values for getting the incremental steps done: So in Step 3 (when students have to write a paragraph stating their point of view) you could take points for that. During the writer’s workshop phase, you might give points for completion of a rough draft and participation points for peer review (ideally, they’d get some kind of feedback on the quality of feedback they give to one another). Another option would be to just give a small, holistic grade for each week based on the overall integrity of their work–are they staying on task? Making small improvements to their writing each day? Taking advantage of the resources? If students are working diligently through the process, that should be enough. But again, the assessment (grades) should really come from that final written product, and if everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing during the workshop phase, most students should have pretty good scores on that final product. Does that help?

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Awesome Step 2! Teaching mostly teenagers in Northern Australia I find students’ verbal arguments are much more finely honed than their written work.

To assist with “building the base” I’ve always found sentence starters an essential entry point for struggling students. We have started using the ‘PEARL’ method for analytical and persuasive writing.

If it helps here a free scaffold for the method:

Thanks again,

Thank you for sharing this additional resource! It’s excellent!

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I’ve been scouring the interwebs looking for some real advice on how I can help my struggling 9th grader write better. I can write. Since it comes naturally for me, I have a hard time breaking it down into such tiny steps that he can begin to feel less overwhelmed. I LOVE the pre-writing ideas here. My son is a fabulous arguer. I need to help him use those powers for the good of his writing skills. Do you have a suggestion on what I else I can be using for my homeschooled son? Or what you may have that could work well for home use?

Hi Melinda,

You might be interested in taking a look at Jenn’s Argumentative Writing unit which she mentions at the end of the post . Hope this helps!

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Mam it would be good if you could post some steps of different writing and some samples as well so it can be useful for the students.

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Hi Aalia! My name is Holly, and I work as a Customer Experience Manager for Cult of Pedagogy. It just so happens that in the near future, Jenn is going to release a narrative writing unit, so keep an eye out for that! As far as samples, the argumentative writing unit has example essays included, and I’m sure the narrative unit will as well. But, to find the examples, you have to purchase the unit from Teachers Pay Teachers.

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I just want to say that this helped me tremendously in teaching argument to 8th Graders this past school year, which is a huge concept on their state testing in April. I felt like they were very prepared, and they really enjoyed the verbal part of it, too! I have already implemented these methods into my unit plan for argument for my 11th grade class this year. Thank you so much for posting all of these things! : )

-Josee` Vaughn

I’m so glad to hear it, Josee!!

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Love your blog! It is one of the best ones.

I am petrified of writing. I am teaching grade 8 in September and would love some suggestions as I start planning for the year. Thanks!

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This is genius! I can’t wait to get started tomorrow teaching argument. It’s always something that I have struggled with, and I’ve been teaching for 18 years. I have a class of 31 students, mostly boys, several with IEPs. The self-paced mini-lessons will help tremendously.

So glad you liked it, Britney!

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My students will begin the journey into persuasion and argument next week and your post cemented much of my thinking around how to facilitate the journey towards effective, enthusiastic argumentative writing.

I use your rubrics often to outline task expectations for my students and the feedback from them is how useful breaking every task into steps can be as they are learning new concepts.

Additionally, we made the leap into blogging as a grade at It feels much like trying to learn to change a tire while the car is speeding down the highway. Reading your posts over the past years was a factor in embracing the authentic audience. Thank You! Trish

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I love reading and listening to your always helpful tips, tricks, and advice! I was wondering if you had any thoughts on creative and engaging ways to have students share their persuasive writing? My 6th students are just finishing up our persuasive writing where we read the book “Oh, Rats” by Albert Marrin and used the information gathered to craft a persuasive piece to either eliminate or protect rats and other than just reading their pieces to one another, I have been trying to think of more creative ways to share. I thought about having a debate but (un)fortunately all my kids are so sweet and are on the same side of the argument – Protect the Rats! Any ideas?

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Hi Kiley! Thanks for the positive feedback! So glad to hear that you are finding value in Cult of Pedagogy! Here are a few suggestions that you may be interested in trying with your students:

-A gallery walk: Students could do this virtually if their writing is stored online or hard copies of their writing. Here are some different ways that you could use gallery walks: Enliven Class Discussions With Gallery Walks

-Students could give each other feedback using a tech tool like Flipgrid . You could assign students to small groups or give them accountability partners. In Flipgrid, you could have students sharing back and forth about their writing and their opinions.

I hope this helps!

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I love the idea of mentor texts for all of these reading and writing concepts. I saw a great one on Twitter with one text and it demonstrated 5-6 reasons to start a paragraph, all in two pages of a book! Is there a location that would have suggestions/lists of mentor texts for these areas? Paragraphs, sentences, voice, persuasive writing, expository writing, etc. It seems like we could share this info, save each other some work, and curate a great collection of mentor text for English Language Arts teachers. Maybe it already exists?

Hi Maureen,

Here are some great resources that you may find helpful:

Craft Lessons Second Edition: Teaching Writing K-8 Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts and Mentor Texts, 2nd edition: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-6

Thanks so much! I’ll definitely look into these.

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I love the steps for planning an argumentative essay writing. When we return from Christmas break, we will begin starting a unit on argumentative writing. I will definitely use the steps. I especially love Step #2. As a 6th grade teacher, my students love to argue. This would set the stage of what argumentative essay involves. Thanks for sharing.

So glad to hear this, Gwen. Thanks for letting us know!

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Great orientation, dear Jennifer. The step-by-step carefully planned pedagogical perspectives have surely added in the information repository of many.

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Hi Jennifer,

I hope you are well. I apologise for the incorrect spelling in the previous post.

Thank you very much for introducing this effective instruction for teaching argumentative writing. I am the first year PhD student at Newcastle University, UK. My PhD research project aims to investigate teaching argumentative writing to Chinese university students. I am interested in the Argumentative Writing unit you have designed and would like to buy it. I would like to see the preview of this book before deciding to purchase it. I clicked on the image BUT the font of the preview is so small and cannot see the content clearly. I am wondering whether it could be possible for you to email me a detailed preview of what’s included. I would highly appreciate if you could help me with this.

Thank you very much in advance. Looking forward to your reply.

Take care and all the very best, Chang

Hi Chang! Jenn’s Argumentative Writing Unit is actually a teaching unit geared toward grades 7-12 with lessons, activities, etc. If you click here click here to view the actual product, you can click on the green ‘View Preview’ button to see a pretty detailed preview of what’s offered. Once you open the preview, there is the option to zoom in so you can see what the actual pages of the unit are like. I hope this helps!

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Great Content!

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Another teacher showed me one of your posts, and now I’ve read a dozen of them. With teaching students to argue, have you ever used the “What’s going on in this picture?” I used it last year and thought it was a non-threatening way to introduce learners to using evidence to be persuasive since there was no text.

I used to do something like this to help kids learn how to make inferences. Hadn’t thought of it from a persuasive standpoint. Interesting.

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this is a very interesting topic, thanks!

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How to Teach Argument and Claims

I think almost every teenager knows how to argue.

At least, that has been my experience with my personal teenager and the 1,000+ I have taught throughout the years. 

However, when they are asked to locate an argument in a text, they are suddenly not the experts we thought they were. 

Here are the 4 steps (plus a bonus ) I use to teach my students the basics of how to identify and analyze arguments and claims. 

Step 0: Vocabulary

It is essential that everyone has the same understanding of key vocabulary words so this is always the foundation of my lesson. 

For this unit, students need to know and understand - Argument, Claim, Relevant Evidence, Counterclaim, Rebuttal, and Credible.

argumentative essay unit middle school

Vocab Teaching Tip: 

I have found that if students engage with the vocabulary words before I give them the fancy language arts definitions, then they are more likely to remember and connect with the concepts. It’s kind of like priming the pump. 

Before we start the mini-lesson, I have my students complete a quick matching activity with their table groups. Each group is given an envelope with cards that have the vocabulary word, the definition, and characteristics.  Students work together for five minutes to try and make matches. When the timer goes off, we check their matches with the fancy definitions on the Google Slides. 

The matching activity makes them invested in learning the definitions. If you would like this matching activity, it’s yours! Just fill out the form on the right to get your Google Slides copy.

argumentative essay unit middle school

Now that we have a solid foundation,  it’s time to teach students how to break down an argumentative essay. When teaching this, I start with a high interest text that I can use to model my thinking. Newsela has a great article about pizza making kids obese that I use with my mini lesson or you can quick Google search for examples of argumentative essays. 

Step 1: Claim It!

argumentative essay unit middle school

Because we put the time in with the vocabulary section, students already know that the claim is the author’s main point. The first step for breaking down the argumentative text should be identifying that claim. 

When I am modeling this for my students, I read the first paragraph out loud and say, “As a good reader, I’m thinking to myself, what does the author believe to be true? ” From there, I walk students through my thinking process of what I know based on what I read. 

I ask my students to scan the first paragraph to see if they can find a sentence that clearly states what the author believes to be true and place their finger under the sentence. When I see all of the students have their finger on a sentence, I highlight the thesis statement that contains the claim. I ask my students to raise their hand if they had the same sentence as I did. Most of the time, everyone raises their hand. Doing this step is a shot of confidence for students when they are just starting out with this concept. 

Side note - I always make sure they know they do not have to agree with the author. We are just identifying what the author believes to be true. 

Step 2: Back it up and Work It!

(This is totally a Lil Tecca reference that might not be the most appropriate for your students - you might want to stick with Back it Up. 😂)

Now it’s time to dissect the meat of the paper!

I tell my students that what makes an argumentative paper different from an opinion piece is the key arguments and evidence. Authors can not just throw a claim out there and not back it up with some reasons. It is our job as top-notch analytical readers to pick out the key arguments and determine if the evidence fully supports the argument. 

When we first do this together, I read the first two body paragraphs and model my thinking. I say, “As a good reader, I’m thinking, WHY does the author believe their claim and HOW did they back it up?”  I ask for their input and show them how to circle the key argument and underline the supporting evidence.

For the last body paragraph, I read it aloud and have the students work with their table groups to identify the key argument and supporting evidence. 

After we read the body paragraphs, we go back to the evidence we underlined. If we determine it’s relevant and credible, we put a checkmark next to it. If we have mostly checks, then we know the author can be trusted.

argumentative essay unit middle school

Step 3: Take me to the other side

argumentative essay unit middle school

After we read the text, I ask, “Did the author acknowledge and address what ‘the other side’ might say about their position?” 

I set the timer for three minutes and have the partner groups go back to find where the author discussed “the other side.” 

When they find it, I have them put an “x” next to it. I’m usually walking around during this part so I can easily check in with each group and make sure they are on task.  If there are groups that are struggling, I have them look at the signal words that we learned about in our vocabulary section. 

After I notice most of the class has marked the counterclaim, I go back to modeling. I mark the counterclaim with an “x” on my paper and then show them how to circle reasons and evidence the author provides in response to show their viewpoint is superior. 

This is a great time to set the timer for three minutes and  have students turn and talk about WHY the author included another perspective in their writing. Allow time to share thoughts and ideas.

Step 4: A Closer Look

I think looking at the text and determining the tone is super important. It can help the reader determine the author’s purpose. With that in mind, our final step is to look for words and phrases the author uses to appeal to the audience’s emotions and to identify descriptive language or imagery included that creates a certain mood. We put a box around these words and phrases and write in the margins about the effect. 

After I model how to annotate with the four steps, I allow students to practice breaking down an argumentative text with a partner and then independently before we move on to application activities. 

Before you get going, let your students know that this is not a one and done type of activity. This is a deep dive into a concept, so they are going to read the paragraphs more than one or two times in order to really be able to analyze the text. 

A lot of times, managing expectations will help with student behavior and attitude. 

argumentative essay unit middle school

Resources I Use to Teach Arguments and Claims

argumentative essay unit middle school

CSUSM logo

  • Civic Engagement
  • Literacy and the Law
  • Unit 1: No, David!

Unit 1, Lesson 5: So You Think You Can Argue

Students will now review/practice a foundation for argument writing through David’s case, and write a “brief” following the guidelines of argument writing. They will use their final briefs to share with fellow jurors and decide on a verdict with this case.

* Teacher Note:   Juries do not write “briefs”. This is added in order to have students practice their argument writing.


Materials & Resources Needed

  • PowerPoint on Personal Opinion/Argument Writing (PPTX)
  • Final Brief Form (PDF)
  • Graphic Organizer (PDF)
  • Process Piece Form (PDF)
  • Teacher’s Edition Form for the Process Piece (PDF)
  • Teachers Edition for the “Cake Argument” Model (PDF)

Standards Addressed

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • State a clear position in support of a proposal.
  • Support a position with relevant evidence.
  • Follow a simple organizational pattern.
  • Address reader concerns.

Essential Questions / Issues

  • What is justice?
  • In what ways does the Rule of Law apply to impartiality of the courts?
  • In what ways are arguments productive?
  • Are the processes in place in democracy designed to “level” individual bias in the court system effective? Why or why not?
  • Should one’s “character” influence judicial decisions? Why or why not?

Students will show their understanding of the analysis and application of the rule of law as evidenced through argumentative writing.

  • Download this rubric as a printable, one-page PDF

Learning Activities (60–65 minutes)

Hook (5 minutes).

How many of you have ever had an argument? (Share out) Are arguments always bad or negative? Issues bring up several different points of view, and in the example of a court case, it is important that all sides be heard. We must learn to persuade others, and to argue in a civil way! We will practice this first with the simple idea of having an opinion about a cake that changes into a persuasive argument!


Show the   PowerPoint (PPTX)   and go through the steps that detail going from “opinion” to “argument”, using the cake as an analogy. This can be done as a whole group to model, and/or in small groups and share out. Complete the PowerPoint that moves to the persuasive argument of David’s verdict.

Depending upon the experience of your students with argument writing, you may want to provide them with a “process piece (PDF)” for this assignment. (There is also a   Teacher’s Edition PDF   of a full argument essay, if needed or desired)


After this, the   graphic organizer (PDF)   is used as a guide for students (as jurors) to write notes they may use in their argument “brief” regarding a verdict in David’s case, using the   “cake argument” model (PDF) , or the “process piece” that relates to the cake to assist them. Students should be told that jurors do not actually write “briefs” when serving jury duty, but the class will be doing so to practice their argument writing, and help organize their thoughts when they “deliberate” as jurors. Students may work in pairs to brainstorm and complete organizers.


(continued revisions during additional English Language blocks or social studies time will be necessary ). Students will use the graphic organizer and begin to write their own “brief (PDF)” , including each part of the argument: claim, counter claim, summary, and use of transitions. In order to meet the CCSS, there needs to be editing, and analysis of the argument to make sure it is complete before the final brief is accepted —   this is just the beginning!   Have students share their “briefs” with a partner — have them “talk-through” the sections of the brief using the Assessment as their guide, giving one another feedback.

Homework and additional class time may need to be dedicated to this essay before students complete this final brief. Give students feedback on their briefs, and have them make final revisions before the jury meets in the next lesson.

Related Student Work Samples:

  • Written Briefs by First Graders (PDF)
  • Written Brief by a Sixth Grader (PDF)


In our next lesson, you will become jury members and present your arguments, “deliberating”…to decide as a group if you can all agree David is “guilty” or “not guilty”. Make your revisions carefully and be prepared to be a responsible member of the jury!

Special Needs of Students Are Considered in This Lesson

Students can be called up as a small group for extra guidance, work in partners, using auditory clues for help with writing, use computers to complete the brief. In addition, the “process” brief may be used to give more guidance when needed. Small groups may need to meet with the teacher to organize thoughts and complete the graphic organizer, and/or brief.

Extension Ideas

Students may begin creating their own cartoon character — illustrating David (or another character) following the “rule of law” as it applies at school.

argumentative essay unit middle school

Argumentative Writing for Middle School

$ 10.99


  • Reviews (0)

Argument essay writing is easier to teach when you have an EDITABLE unit with well-written mentor texts and a step-by-step process. Students will LOVE this argument essay writing unit, as well as the real-life application and mentor texts included here.

Update 1 : I included 40 editable pages, a Google Drive link to the entire argumentative essay unit, and an extra rubric!

Update 2 : Buyers have been asking for at-a-glance lesson plans just like the plans in my other writing units, so I have included them here. I’ve also included lessons on recognizing persuasive arguments, revising, and editing.

This argumentative writing unit is comprehensive and extremely easy to use. It includes a step-by-step approach to help your students write effective arguments. They will be successful!

Included in this Unit: ♦ At-a-Glance Daily Lesson Plans ♦ “Flexible” or Quick Use Plans Option ♦ 40 Editable Pages- Customize this to your liking! ♦ Google Drive link ♦ Argumentative Writing Terminology ♦ Organizing and Planning the Essay ♦ Writing the Introductory Paragraph ♦ Writing the Body Paragraphs ♦ Writing the Counter Argument Body Paragraph ♦ Writing a Strong Conclusion ♦ 2 Essay Mentor Texts ♦ 1 Legislation Letter Mentor Text ♦ Essay Organization Puzzle Challenge ♦ Suggestions for Choosing a Topic ♦ Argumentative Essay Student Checklist ♦ TWO Argumentative Essay Writing Rubrics ♦ and more!

Bonus Model Congress Unit: I’ve now included an additional mini-unit. The essays provide a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about enacting legislation. Some simple modifications to the essays are required. By turning the essays into letters to government representatives, students can learn a valuable lesson about the power of the written word!

*Please note: This writing unit can be used in conjunction with  Argument Writing PowerPoint and Notes  to really drive home the concepts!

“How to Write an Argumentative Essay” addresses the following Common Core Standards: W.6.1; W.6.1a-e; W.6.7; W.6.9;W.6.10 W.7.1; W.7.1a-e; W.7.7; W.7.9; W.7.10 W.8.1; W.8.1a-e; W.8.7; W.8.9; W.8.10 W.9-10.1; W.9-10.1a-e;W.9-10.9; W.9-10.10

* Please check out the preview to see everything that is included.

★ Save 20%! This product is now part of a TpT bestselling bundle! It includes everything you need to teach the three Common Core text types: Argumentative, Narrative, and Informational Writing Workshop Bundle {CCSS}

★  It is also part of this BIG writing bundle: Argumentative, Narrative, Informative, Research Writing and More: BIG Bundle

You might like these other Common Core resources: ♦  Writing Workshop Minilessons Revision Editing and Diagnostic ♦ 50 Argument Topics with Outlines and Rubrics ♦ Research Paper Feature Article Writer’s Workshop ♦ Don’t Flip! Test Tip Flip Book and More ♦ How to Write an Essay Requiring Text Based Details ♦ Informational Essay Writing ♦ Close Read: Step by Step Strategies for Success ♦ Narrative Writing Workshop ♦ Literary Elements: Plot Interactive Notebook or Cornell Outline Choice ♦ Literary Elements: Theme Interactive Notebook or Cornell Outline Choice ♦ Figurative Language: Teach, Practice, Test

As always, you can contact me with any questions.

Take care, ♥ Darlene

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